DeAndre Jordan spurns the Mavericks, and the Clippers laugh at someone else for a change

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Dan Wetzel
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For years and years, decades even, seemingly everything about the Los Angeles Clippers felt cloaked in failure and embarrassment.

There was the racist slumlord of an owner. There were endless losing seasons. There were terrible draft picks, bad trades and brutal injuries. There was a general malaise that surrounded the place. That everything occurred in the shadow of the glamorous Lakers, who turned L.A. into a basketball town, made everything worse.

So it's a short list when recounting the greatest days in Clippers history. The fact it's probably topped by the time NBA commissioner Adam Silver stripped Donald Sterling of ownership kind of says it all.

Wednesday was one of the good ones, though, perhaps the most unexpected of them: a day of tweets and emojis and jokes and foolishness befitting a free-agency circus. Only, this time the Clips weren't the punch line.

A week ago, they were. That's when DeAndre Jordan, their 6-foot-11 center, decided to bail on Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and Doc Rivers and whatever hope there was in L.A. He instead decided to sign as a free agent with the Dallas Mavericks, back in his native Texas.

DeAndre Jordan (right) called Clippers coach Doc Rivers to express reservations about joining the Mavs. (Getty Images_
DeAndre Jordan (right) called Clippers coach Doc Rivers to express reservations about joining the Mavs. (Getty Images_

This is DeAndre Jordan, not Michael, but he's big, athletic, just 26 and coming off a season where he averaged 11.5 points and 15 rebounds. He was a good player, a key player. And he took less money to leave. It was the classic Clippers tale.

And then it wasn't. Jordan made a verbal agreement to sign with the Mavs but under NBA rules he couldn't officially sign the contract until Thursday. He got cold feet. He wanted back. He called Rivers to talk. Next thing you know the Clippers had their opening, summoning everyone they could find to descend on Jordan's home in Houston, to flip him back like a Wild West college recruiting story.

Rivers, Griffin and team owner Steve Ballmer came in from L.A. CP3 left a Caribbean vacation, where he'd last been seen riding an inflated banana with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, which only makes sense in this surreal tale.

The meeting was brief. Differences between Jordan and Paul were quickly addressed, with Paul reportedly promising to include him more in the offense. It was more than enough.

Jordan wanted back. The Clips wanted him back. It was like a teen romance movie. Just come chase me. Just tell me you love me. The happy ending came in a neat, quick bow. Only it was too neat and too quick, the evening still young, too many hours to go.

Jordan couldn't officially sign until 12:01 a.m. ET Thursday and the Clippers feared Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would arrive and talk Jordan back into the deal – this is the star of "Shark Tank" after all. Leave Cuban alone with Jordan and anything could happen.

So the Clips decided they'd stay and babysit, for once refusing to be naïve and letting someone pull away the football as they wound up for the kick.

Cards were brought out and played. Griffin began tweeting jokes, showing a chair jammed up against a door and later a tent in the backyard as a sign of keeping Cuban away. ESPN reported Cuban and player Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons were circling town, looking for the place and trying to get a promised word with Jordan, unable to get family members to dish on the address.

Chris Paul was part of the group of Clippers players to meet with Jordan in Houston. (Getty Images)
Chris Paul was part of the group of Clippers players to meet with Jordan in Houston. (Getty Images)

Cuban would never get in the door. The Clippers, of all people, got to keep their man, for four years, $87.6 million.

This wasn't just a ludicrous day – it was an historic one for the Clips. This wasn't just the Clippers signing a key piece for the future. It wasn't just saving themselves from an awful free-agent period, one so bad that guard J.J. Redick, when asked what grade he'd give it on Bleacher Report radio on Wednesday, offered up this: "Is there an F-minus?"

It wasn't just the team coming together and sorting through whatever issues sent Jordan to Texas in the first place, vowing to go deeper than the second round of the playoffs.

This was a straight Hollywood script flip, a role reversal. This was a plot twist with the nerd not just getting the girl, but also becoming the big man on campus.

This was the Clippers, after all, a team that once, over a 34-year stretch, produced only three winning seasons, often in spectacular fashion. Eight times they failed to win even 20 games.

This was a franchise that had been hoodwinked in a million trades, that had always lost its best talent, that had been played for pay raises by free agents only to be left at the alter.

If this bizarre scenario was ever going to play out in the NBA, if there was ever going to be a player breaking his word and refusing to call ownership and having another team in his house, joking about blocking the door until signing hour, it was going to be the Los Angeles Clippers playing the part of hapless, forlorn suitor.

Only this time, the Clips were cool and Mark Cuban, of all people, was left holding the bag.

Jordan deserves plenty of criticism for that. Backing out of his word was bad enough, especially because it ruined Dallas' plan to surround Dirk Nowitzki with some talent for a final championship push in his storied career. An 11th-hour switch left the Mavs with no viable Plan B.

Worse was that Jordan didn't just call Cuban earlier and end the charade before it became a social media phenomenon.

It wasn't a good look for the player, not that the Clippers care. For once, something peculiar happened for them, not to them. For once, they were playing the role of the Lakers, securing a big signee while their star players confidently sent out one-liners and mocking gags, the bullies winning in the end.

The Clippers? Yes, the Clippers.

Inside DeAndre Jordan's house on Wednesday, they just kept laughing and laughing, tweeting out their good fortune on a good, long-time-coming kind of day.